Last month the City of Melbourne announced a $50 million fund to help the arts, hospitality and entertainment industries transition to outdoor, more Covid-safe operations. This was followed by the news that six major streets in the CBD, Carlton, North Melbourne, South Yarra and Kensington will be turned into al fresco dining areas.

Now comes something really exciting: Melbourne Dollars.

Under the proposal, developed by Broadsheet and Lord Mayor Sally Capp, diners would pay 80 cents to buy one “Melbourne dollar”, to be redeemed at participating restaurants, cafes and bars within the 14 suburbs that make up the City of Melbourne. This would result in a 20 per cent discount on final bills, excluding alcohol.

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The UK ran a similar program throughout August, to help revive its ailing hospitality sector. But that discount was only available from Monday to Wednesday (a total of 12 days) and was limited to £10 per person, per bill.

Melbourne dollars, which could be spent at any day or time, represent a much more substantial perk for diners. The only limitation would be the amount each person can buy: a maximum of $500 Melbourne dollars, for the price of $400 Australian dollars.

“The Melbourne Dollars program will deliver an immediate hand-up for our hospitality sector, which is on its knees because of the Covid-induced economic crisis,” Capp says. “Whether you want to buy $10 or $500 worth of Melbourne Dollars, this program will suit all budgets and support all venues who wish to participate.”

In 2018 the hospitality sector was worth about $2.5 billion to the city’s economy.

Capp will implement the Melbourne Dollars idea if she’s re-elected on October 24. The City of Melbourne would invest up to $5 million to subsidise diners’ bills, with diners tipping in $20 million between them. Roshena Campbell, a barrister, Team Sally Capp councillor candidate and former restaurant reviewer, would head up the initiative if elected.

“We are so excited to be working with Councillor Capp on this initiative,” says Broadsheet’s founder and publisher, Nick Shelton. “Hospitality is at the heart of our city’s vibrant culture, but the industry is hurting. We came up with the Melbourne dollars proposal to help get Melburnians back into their favourite restaurants, cafes and bars and to help those venues get back on their feet.”